Eating meat is one of those things that I’ve always done and never given much thought to. I’d seen all the videos and documentaries but it never really had that much impact. Lots of my friends are vegetarian and I have always wanted to try it for ethical, environmental and moral reasons. Two weeks ago I found myself in the perfect situation to try it. I began a two week road-trip with my vegetarian friend George and as we would be eating and cooking together it made sense for me to adopt the life style for the journey. What I have experienced and learned over the last two weeks has been fascinating and a crazy look into many things that had never even crossed my mind before.
1. It’s not that hard
First and foremostly this was my main observation. I really expected to miss meat a lot more than I did. When you are cooking for yourself using meat substitutes like Quorn and Tofu means you can still cook pretty much everything you did before. It also allows you try a bunch of new food and recipes that I’d never have even thought of before
2. Get ready to explain yourself
It’s a shame but apparently you cant just be vegetarian. Every person needs to know why or how you became vegetarian. This was probably one of the worse parts of my experience. Repeating the same basic points over and over again to hear the same old “I like meat too much to go vegetarian” in response got very tiresome. George who has been vegetarian for nearly two years now had a neatly rehearsed set of points which he told me most vegetarians he knew had to make the process simpler. I chose the simpler “I’m on holiday with a vegetarian so it seemed easier” towards the end of the trip as explaining any reason I might have got old very quick. I never noticed before how exhausting this could be, why cant people just be vegetarian without having all these questions thrown at you.
3. A massive lack of understanding
Personally I have always understood and respected the many good arguments behind vegetarianism and am happy I finally got round to trying it but the lack of understanding from some people is phenomenal. Some personal favourite quotes and arguments I came across are;
“I like meat to much to turn vegetarian” -This feels like the Pascals Wager or a get out of jail free card of anti-vegetarian arguments, “Yeah I know vegetarianism has points but I don’t like to think about what I’m eating”
“Quorn isn’t that like chemicals? I don’t trust it cos it’s made with science not good old fashioned nature” – Everything is chemicals, duh. This is one of the worst arguments, seriously its not bad for you just because its not “natural”. Do some research.
“There’s plenty of vegetables left!” – To many peoples credit when we ordered vegetarian meals they did try very hard to be inclusive but it ended up being forced and awkward. It basically felt like some people would says “There’s loads of salad left, that’s what you people eat right? Just salad, nothing else?”. It’s not an issue that you need to keep bringing up every time food is mentioned. Once is enough and after that I felt myself just wanting to eat in peace without feeling like some sort of a weird outcast.
4. We eat a lot of meat
We do, seriously. Every single person goes through so many animals in one day its rather absurd. You can easily eat a different meat for every meal of the day without much effort and many options such as Chicken and Bacon sandwiches etc. include two lucky animals in one meal. There is so much meat in everything. Even Tim Tams (a chocolate biscuit similar to Penguin Bars) are not vegetarian! I know right it’s shocking they contain cochineal which is a food dye made from crushed beetles. If I’m not going to eat animals then I’m sure as hell not going to eat a chocolate bar that uses crushed beetles to make it a slightly different colour. If you try and eat out every choice has meat, meat and more meat. No sandwich chain is complete without meat in EVERYTHING. The number of options for vegetarians are pitiful and often pretty shoddy. That brings me nicely onto my next point.
5. Vegetarian options suck
This was a struggle that had never crossed my mind before. We went to the largest shopping mall in Cairns and were wandering around the food court there trying to find something for lunch. The selection was pitiful to say the least. We counted the number of meals we would count as vegetarian and substantial enough to be called a meal (so a bag of fries doesn’t count). We counted 14 obviously advertised vegetarian options, excluding one smart sit down restaurant which if excluded (and if we want to count affordable meals we should) that brings the total down to 9. Only 9 options, and most of those were rubbish. So many places would have perfectly nice vegetarian options or sandwiches with unnecessary meat thrown in. I don’t expect the whole world to cater for me but you can’t say that 9 options from a huge food-court is really that good.
Overall I would say this whole experience has been a positive one. While I have definitely come out of it with a new found respect for vegetarians. You can’t just be a vegetarian it seems. You have to be constantly explaining yourself, hearing people try to persuade you other wise. You can’t just go grab a bite to eat. You have to search endlessly through all the things you can’t eat to pick out something that’s most likely average or slightly below. The thing that got me the most was the labelling. Being vegetarian seems to put you in a separate group to everyone else. Why? Why can’t someone just eat what they choose. You often hear that vegetarians and vegans can’t not tell you about their eating habits but you’d be surprised at how often its other people who bring it up first.
In reflection of these two weeks I would encourage everyone to do some research and really look into where your food comes from. If the ethics aren’t going to change you then look at the environmental impact. Eating one burger, ONE burger wastes the same amount of water as showering does in 2 months. Now you can’t tell me that’s not insane. I bet you’re wondering if I’m going to stay vegetarian after this and I’ll tell you that it doesn’t matter. You shouldn’t be treated differently based on your diet.